A Dad’s Guide to an Infant’s Foot Development

dad-holding-baby-feet

In the first few months after your baby is born, their cute, pudgy little feet will mainly be for attracting comments about how adorable they are. However, when your child begins to become more mobile through crawling and walking, their feet take on a much more important role in their development. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the signs of healthy growth so you can address any issues quickly so that they can enjoy a life free of any foot problems.

To help you out, we’ve put together this guide to the development of your child’s feet, which will take you through the essential stages as well as providing some important advice along the way.

The first few months

When your baby is born, the bones in their feet are not fully formed, and are made of a soft, flexible cartilage that will develop in shape and hardness over time. The soles of their feet will also be flat, as the arches that form as they get older have yet to develop. There is no walking at this stage, just a lot of kicking and the wiggling of toes, though they may begin to crawl at aged six months or so.

During this period, it’s important that infants get a chance to exercise and stretch their feet and legs so they can develop the strength needed to walk later on. Livestrong recommends that you promote leg development by playing games, offering interactive toys, and creating an environment that encourages exploration. In doing so, you can help them reach the point where they are ready to begin standing.

As your child begins to crawl around, you may want to cover their precious little feet with a soft, lightweight type of footwear for some extra protection when they are on their travels. Be careful to monitor the restrictiveness of these garments to ensure they do not get in the way of foot growth, which occurs quite quickly in the early stages.

Standing and walking

Though it is different for many different babies, the period where they are ready to begin standing and walking can be between 9 and 18 months old. Around this time, your child will be getting more curious about exploring the world, and their legs and feet will be developing to allow them to do just this. You’ll be able to see a pronounced difference in their feet — a leaner shape, a more rounded heel, and the beginnings of a foot arch are all signs that they are ready to start walking.

You don’t need to rush out and buy your toddler shoes straight away, as it still important that your child’s feet get the exercise provided by walking barefoot around the house. Make sure your floor is clean and safe, and let them learn and become confident indoors before you begin to think about taking them for their first shoe fitting.

Tom Mankin of Charles Clinkard, a children’s shoe specialist, recommends that when the time comes to go shopping for shoes, you should always visit someone who knows the intricacies of child’s feet. He said:

“Just as every child is unique, so are their feet. This makes getting your child’s fitting right vitally important, and it is always best to have their feet measured by a trained fitter to ensure a secure and comfortable fit. Children’s feet at this stage of development tend to grow at a rate of approximately three whole shoe sizes a year and due to this we recommend that you have your child’s feet measured every six to eight weeks.”

The Children’s Foot Health Register is an organisation created with assistance from several reputable health associations and institutes with the aim of providing a list of trusted retailers for fitting and selling children’s shoes. You can use their shoe shop finder to locate a registered shoe shop near to your location.

Common foot development problems to look out for

As your baby grows into a toddler and beyond, there can be a few problems that can occur with their feet that you should be on the lookout for. By spotting them early, you can take corrective measures quickly to make sure they don’t suffer from poor foot health later down the line. Watch out for:

  • Flat-footedness: This is perfectly natural in babies and toddlers as they begin to walk around and shouldn’t cause you concern. However, if it persists into past the age of three when their arches should have naturally developed, it is worth seeking advice from your doctor just in case.
  • In-toeing and out-toeing: This happens when your child begins to walk with their feet pointing inwards or outwards, rather than straight ahead. It can often be something that corrects itself as a child gets used to walking. If it continues, get advice from a health professional, as it can easily be corrected with exercises, a special insole, or modification to their footwear.
  • Toe-walking: This occurs when your child walks on their toes rather than spreading their weight across the rest of their feet or heels. Although it is common in toddlers, they should grow out of it eventually, and if they don’t, you should seek the advice of a health professional.

There you have it, all of the key information you need to get you through the early developmental stages of your child’s feet. Follow it closely and watch out for any of the problems listed and your baby’s feet will be happy and healthy for life.

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